The Air That Breathes Life
|   Jan 20, 2017
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The Air That Breathes Life

My husband's grandpa visits us often. It's always such an inspiration to have him around. Believe it or not, he's 93, walks 4 kms a day, does his own taxes and sits on the floor cross-legged for hours to do his puja. I often go wonder-eyed before him and ask him his secrets to a long, healthy life.

In his ensuing age, he has witnessed so much transition in family values and culture, he observes. He reminisces about an age when life was simple, choices were limited and people spent more time outdoors in the sun without worrying about getting tanned. "We grew up in forested areas where we plucked fresh fruits off trees, reaped the benefits of home-grown vegetables, and drank ayurvedic kadhas for cough and cold. Today's generation has more faith in Allopathy than gharelu nuskas. They put chemically-treated products on their skin as opposed to Dadima's ubtans. They chuck supplements down their throats with their morning beverage but have no time to eat fresh fruits. They spend more time on laptops and the virtual world than enjoying face-to-face conversations and long walks in the beautiful, wide world around them. They question the goodness in everything. It's a complex environment they've created for themselves."

Even the air he breathes today seems complicated to him.  I joke and say, " Well, of course it's complicated. It's laced with caffeine breaths and cigarette smokes, the antidotes to stress in modern life."

And it occurs to me that we may have come miles ahead in terms of medical advancements and fitness awareness, but we've also left behind everything that was pure and simple.

I recently read a story about this man who worked as a manual labourer in Port Jeferson, NY. In his mid-60s, he was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors told him he had six month to live. He refused treatment and went back to his home-town in Greece so that he could be buried with his ancestors. Except that he didn't die. He grew a vineyard and did his own gardening. He passed an outdoorsy life in the clean ocean air of Ikaria, living up to the age of 102, cancer-free.

When I look at my husband's grandpa and read such inspirational stories about people who've stood against the debilitating test of time, it fills me with hope and grief. Hope that perhaps, we and our future generations will get to age gracefully and be age-defiers like them. Grief that subject to our lifestyles and the environment that we're raising our kids in, it's going to be an uphill task.

As a mom, I do everything in my finite power to see that my family enjoys a quality life. I double-check everything I buy, I sleep lightly, I watch over my kid constantly when she's playing with her friends. I am paranoid, being subject to all the vices that a city parent learns to live with.

But what about the air we breathe? The air that my child draws in generously? The air that has proven to remove toxins from a cancerous body? Is this air, that my home and environs thrive in, breathing life or is it introducing new toxic fumes that pose a continuous threat to our health and longevity? Diesel fumes are known to be carcinogenic, research has proven it. Dust particles trigger allergies that can lead to lung infections. What more, environmental contaminants pose a greater risk to children's health and development in comparison to that of an adult as a child breathes in more air than an adult. Since their lungs and immune system are still developing, they are more vulnerable to toxins and respiratory diseases.

It makes me uneasy to think that I am fighting the enemy when it's invisible. And every time, I take my kid to the doctor to treat a persistent cough, I think I'm failing. I speak to my friends living in dangerously polluted cities like Delhi and they're plagued by this evil. They live their lives as if under terror. Kids play indoors sieged by the acrid smog that hurts their throats. Until the government takes some serious steps to impose clean air regulations, they're helpless.

It was in one such morbid conversation that my friend talked about air purifiers and the impact that it has had over her son's allergies. Installing an air purifier in her house has greatly reduced her son's visits to the doctor and allergy attacks. She spoke about her son who had the most violent reactions to even minor dust particles and pollen and now, with five new air purifiers in her house, he breathes freely. Living under the Delhi smog, that could only be wishful thinking.

As for me, I am keenly convinced that if there is any secret to a long, healthy life, it must lie in both ourselves and the ecosystem that we live in. Looking at my daughter grow everyday, I wonder if there is anything else that I can do to keep bodily infections and diseases at bay for her and my family.

Giving her clean air would be a great start, I think. Will air purifiers help me achieve that? I am going to put that to test.

Have you installed an air purifier in your house? I'd love to know what you think of them.

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